America's Promise celebrates 15 years

with excerpts from "The Story of America’s Promise"

On April 28, 1997 at an historic and unprecedented assembly in Philadelphia, Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, with Mrs. Nancy Reagan representing President Reagan, declared: “We owe a debt of service to fulfill the God-given promise of America, and our children.” America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth was born at that assembly and has transformed over the years from a clarion call to action into a national movement of dedicated Americans working together to help millions of young people achieve their full potential. America’s Promise Alliance will officially celebrate its 15th anniversary on April 27.

Under the founding leadership of Gen. Colin L. Powell, and the continuing leadership of Alma J. Powell, America’s Promise established its roots using a simple guiding principle: that all children and youth deserve the fundamental resources needed to grow up to be healthy, independent and responsible adults. Called the Five Promises, these resources include Caring Adults, Safe Places, A Healthy Start, Effective Education, and Opportunities to Help Others.

The Summit in Philadelphia began as a simple idea from a man who was accustomed to undertaking big challenges – George Romney, a three-term governor of Michigan, presidential candidate, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and founder of the Volunteer Center Network. In the mid-1990s, he was troubled by the direction the country was headed.

High on his list of critical problems was the state of our country’s children and youth. This is what Romney wrote:

“No longer can young people turn with confidence to stable families, churches or neighborhood organizations for the support they require, in too many cases. Nor can the schools carry this double burden. Their very ability to educate increasingly is overwhelmed by the lack of parental guidance, and the problems of substance abuse, neglect, malnutrition, substandard housing, and poverty the children bring into the classroom. Under such circumstances there’s no way they can develop the skills that creative thinkers require in our increasingly technological world.”

He offered his case for what needed to be done:

“If we were threatened by external forces, our resurgence would be swift and sure, centered around a full-scale mobilization of the entire nation. Our domestic problems demand no less of a response than that same kind: a full-scale mobilization of all our creative resources from the largest corporation to the smallest neighborhood group. There are roles in this for government, business, education, religion, professionals, civic organizations, youth, and for each and every American.”

Romney’s words still ring true today. Fifteen years, and more than 400 partners later, America’s Promise seeks to deliver the Five Promises by ensuring that all young people graduate from high school and receive a post-secondary education – ready for success, work and life.

We encourage you to monitor our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed on April 27 to learn more about our history and see how you can get involved.